It begins with the resurrection of a dead deer on the road, and ends with an exciting and startlingly emotional climax that will make you excited about zombie movies again. The South Korean flick Train to Busan hit the US audience late in 2016 on December 13, but quickly topped many fans top ten lists for the year. And for good reason, too. Train to Busan is one of the most well-made and thrilling zombie films in recent years, with an excellent cast of characters populating the titular and ill-fated train. It is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Well Go USA Entertainment.
Seok-woo is an absentee father to young Su-an, who accompanies her on a bullet train from Seoul to Busan to visit her mother. A woman infected with the zombie virus gets on the train at the last minute, and now the passengers are in a fight for their lives against the plague of the undead as they try to make it to a military safe zone in Busan.
The main character story centers around Seok-woo and Su-an, and the rift between the two of them provides an emotional connection for the audience. Early scenes establish their strained relationship. The young girl brashly tells her father to his face that he is selfish and lies to her about keeping his promises. Still, he fights like hell to keep her safe, and all you want at the end of the film is to see them reconnect again. The girl playing Su-an is a great actress, and just as much a pro as her adult counterparts. Seok-woo at times feels emotionless, but you can feel that he is just a guy trying to do the right thing in the moment.
The supporting cast is equally strong. Su-an befriends a young pregnant couple, Sung-gyeong and her husband, Sang-hwa, who seems to be the fan favorite. Sang-hwa is tough but also very lovable, and Sung-gyeong acts as a stand-in mother to Su-an when she gets separated from her father. Their arcs become just as pivotal to the story as the main characters. Creating more conflict for a mostly likable cast is that one guy that everybody hates. I was a little annoyed at his inclusion at first, because I knew that every decision he made was probably going to get somebody killed. Still, you can’t deny that some people would probably act like that in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
The zombies portrayed in the film are a combination of those from 28 Days Later and World War Z, with some characteristics of the T-rex from Jurassic Park thrown in there, too. People that are bitten by the infected change almost instantaneously, and become fast-moving, vicious killing machines. When in a large group, they attack with a hive-mind mentality. There are some amazing, and even terrifying, shots of hordes of zombies stumbling over each other to attack their victims, and bursting through glass doors and windows. A slight difference with these zombies is that they seem to have poor vision, or can only respond to movement and sound (my weird T-rex connection). Their milky eyes might be to blame for this.
While there is a fair amount of blood and plenty of zombie carnage, Train to Busan is mostly an action film, though I am not faulting the movie in the least for that. The action is intense and exciting throughout, and each scene feels fresh and new. The train is of course the main set piece, and for such a constrained setting, the movie never feels that way at all. It feels big, and everything keeps moving just as fast as the zombies themselves. The CGI is practically flawless when it comes to the zombies, or the bigger action moments that occur at the end at the railyard. You’ll only appreciate how much the CGI elevates such sequences. They are also punctuated by a great score that emphasize the action-filled and emotional beats.
The Blu-Ray for Train to Busan is scant in terms of special features. All that is provided are two short behind-the-scenes featurettes that total to a 20-minute runtime combined. It’s interesting to see the train set-up with all the green screens, and to see the actors having fun, but I would have loved some more in-depth interviews with the creators. However, the Blu-Ray version itself is beyond gorgeous–crystal clear picture and perfect sound quality. And it will make fans happy to be able to have the movie in their possession only a mere month after its digital release in the US.
You really couldn’t ask for a better zombie-action flick than Train to Busan. Its pulse-pounding action and suspense never stops as you watch characters you fall in love with instantly trek through one impossible situation after another. The gut-wrenching ending will probably hit you harder than you expect. Hop on the Train to Busan today and see what you’ve been missing!
WICKED RATING: 9/10
Director(s): Yeon Sang-ho
Writer(s): Park Joo-suk
Stars: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok
Release: January 17, 2017 (Blu-ray and DVD)
Studio/ Production Co: Well Go USA Entertainment
Length: 118 minutes
Sub-Genre: Zombie, Action